Freshly made bagels, chewy and delicious!

I’m slowly waking up this morning, my faithful mug filled with wonderfully black coffee, piping hot. It’s rainy and overcast and I’m watching my neighbors tiptoeing outside to pick up their soggy newspaper. The house is still dark and perfumed with the scent of my freshly toasted parmesan bagel. There is something extremely peaceful about this morning.

Earlier in the week, I noticed the most amazing bagels posted by Cenk at Cafe Fernando. He used a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a book that I’ve considered purchasing many times. I decided to give the bagel recipe a try first to see if it would be worthwhile to buy the book. I’ve since placed my book order :-)

Bagels are one of my favorite forms of bread. They are chewy but can also be crisp when toasted. They can be sweet or savory, used for any meal, and can be dressed up or down as you like. They can even be made into bagel chips!

The bagel recipe begins with a warning by Cenk that there will be kneading by hand involved. Given the quantity and stiffness of the dough, it will likely destroy a standard issue KitchenAid mixer. I’m not worried and figure it can’t be all that bad, as I’ve kneaded bread doughs many times before. So, I lay out my ingredients, already thinking ahead to how I will top the bagels.

I start by making the sponge and allowing it to rise. Next, additional yeast and flour are added. I used my mixer to begin the dough making process but after adding the last cup or so of flour it began to churn and make disturbing noises. I flipped it off and turned my blob of dough onto my work surface for kneading.

I kneaded the dough into a ball and at this point there is a remaining 3/4 cup of flour that you must knead into the dough. It sounds easy. I begin with a sprinkling of flour and realize it may be more difficult than first thought. The dough is stiff and from its chunky texture, I realize that I will likely be kneading longer than 10 minutes.

I push and roll the dough, continually moving it and working it. The muscles in my arms begin to slowly burn, and with each kneading movement they tighten and burn more. My calves started to also burn and it was then that I realized I was on the tips of my toes. I kneaded the bread on top of my wood cutting board which is 1.5″ thick, so in order to get the right leverage on the stiff dough I needed to be higher. I didn’t have a stool handy, so continued to work out my calves as well.

At this point, only about 5 minutes had passed. My breathing steadily increased throughout the kneading process and it was then that I hatched my latest idea … a workout video based on bread baking. I can see it now, “Don’t be a dough boy – knead your way to tighter buns” or “Need abs? Knead dough!”.

After a few expletives and seriously determined to never read Cafe Fernando again, my kneading stopped, somewhere around 15 minutes. It seemed like an eternity. I used a high-gluten bread flour which is suggested, while Cenk used all-purpose flour which required double the kneading time. He must be in amazing shape.

The dough is cut into 12 portions and shaped into balls. It’s important to take this step seriously as it determines the final shape of your bagels. For a perfect looking bagel, make a nicely round and smooth ball. After the balls rest for 20 minutes, they are then given their signature hole by using your thumb. Just poke it through the center of the ball until it touches your forefinger, then work it around to stretch out the center as desired.

Place bagels on greased baking sheet and allow to rest another 20 minutes then place into the fridge overnight. The next morning, mine looked like this:

I prepared the boiling water in which to boil the bagels, then set up plates with my topping ingredients. I used a mix of grated parmesan and crushed black pepper, freshly chopped rosemary, sesame seeds, and cinnamon/oatmeal/brown sugar.

After the bagels boiled for 2 minutes (I wanted mine extra-chewy), I allowed them to cool for a few seconds before dipping them in my ingredients. I suggest rolling them around so all sides are covered. In retrospect, I might use a bit of egg wash next time to help the sesame to adhere. After they baked, the seeds flaked off easily. Here are my bagels awaiting the hot oven:

I baked the bagels for a full 15 minutes until I achieved a golden-brown color. I cooled on a wire rack for a few minutes before splitting the first one open. The bagel was chewy and delicious, especially with the slab of butter I put on top of it.

While I expected my favorite topping to be sesame seeds, it turned out to be the parmesan/black pepper combo. It was the absolute best, so savory and rich. The oatmeal/cinnamon/brown sugar was a last minute idea and it tasted surprisingly good.

So, was it worth the effort? Of course, and I will make them again. I might even begin reading Cafe Fernando again :-)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Peter M March 29, 2008, 12:40 pm

    I like the classic with poppy seeds, although I don’t eat bagels that much.

    When they are good, they are the best and when they are bad…hockey pucks!

  • Deborah March 29, 2008, 12:41 pm

    I have that book and love it. Not only does it have some great recipes, but it teaches a lot about technique as well. I haven’t tried the bagels yet, but now I really want to!

  • White On Rice Couple March 29, 2008, 2:28 pm

    Wow! Are those really home made? They look beautiful and delicious! I used to make sun-dried tomato bagels for my backpacking trips, but they were not as pretty. Kinda oblong and lopsided, but tasty!
    So how much do you charge for a dozen? :)

  • Manggy March 29, 2008, 5:27 pm

    I’ve not had a good bagel before– I think the first extremely chewy and dry one put me off them. But your raves and beautiful pics are sure making me curious again!

    Good call. Far as I know, pros have nothing but praise for Bread Baker’s Apprentice (‘cept the strange cover– hey little one, why so sad?). I was a bit surprised Cenk put cup measurements for the recipe, though.

  • Cenk March 29, 2008, 6:28 pm

    Haha! Well, I warned you! But I guess I forgot to tell how stiff the dough was… Sorry :) I love the idea of cheese and black pepper. I will definitely try that combo next time I bake these.

  • Darron March 29, 2008, 6:36 pm

    I’ve made this recipe, loved it, made it again and again, and blogged about it as well. You’re bagels look great!

    By the way, I’ve used my kitchen aid to mix/knead the dough every single time with no ill effects.

    The Teacher Learns to Cook

  • Allen March 29, 2008, 6:51 pm

    Peter M: Well, I wanted poppy seed too but I realized that I was out at the last minute — next time!

    Deborah: Glad to hear you love the book, now I’m even more excited to get it!

    White on Rice Couple: 100% homemade (tired forearms as proof) — oh, sundried tomatoes … and I have jar that I just opened … next time for those! Hey — I just noticed that you have a dog blog, so do I! Barking Out Loud

    Manggy: Haha! Yes, the book cover is a bit depressing and sad :-) Maybe that will be me … after kneading so much bread, maybe that’s how one looks?

    Cenk: Haha — you fairly warned me. Now I know for next time that I’ll need a step stool to properly knead my dough (guess I’m kinda short).

    Darron: Yours look great! Your original link had an extra character in it and it breaks — here is the link to Darron’s bagels.

    Maybe next time I’ll give it another go with the mixer … it started to creak and bog down, so I feared it blowing up :-)

  • StickyGooeyCreamyChewy March 29, 2008, 8:42 pm

    Those are some handsome looking bagels! I’m impressed! I’m also chuckling over your story! That exercise video would probably be a best-seller.

  • We Are Never Full March 29, 2008, 9:06 pm

    These look great! Just like the bagels from up the block. I guess I take it for granted that I live in New York and have awesome bagels at my fingertips. I bet you if I ever move away from the city I will make my own bagels. But for now, I’ll just walk down to Bergen Bagel and for $1.50 get my bagel and cream cheese!

    These look gorgeous though!

    Amy @

  • Erin March 30, 2008, 11:36 am

    Allen these look so amazing! Are you sure they aren’t from a bakery? I’m seriously impressed. I bow down to your mad bread baking skills.

  • giz March 30, 2008, 1:35 pm

    Your bagels look as delicious as any I’ve seen at any bakery – lovely

  • Megan Renee March 31, 2008, 7:43 am

    These look fantastic. I am going to try them this week. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Pixie March 31, 2008, 8:54 am

    hmmm…….I’m out seeking the perfect bagel recipe and all out of bagels. I’ll need to make them again very soon. I’ll have to do a comparison…they do look great and love the toppings too. Aren’t home made bagels the greatest? (this comment is far longer than I intended) :)

    “Don’t be a dough boy – knead your way to tighter buns” or “Need abs? Knead dough!”.

    LOL!!!!!!!!! Great post.

  • foodhoe March 31, 2008, 3:06 pm

    wow, that sounds like an epic recipe! I have the book as well, but am cursed with a black thumb as far as bread baking by hand goes… good thing there are plenty of bagel shops around. I’ll look for parmesan black pepper, that sounds so good.

  • Allen March 31, 2008, 4:52 pm

    StickyGooeyCreamyChewy: Thank you — exercise video coming soon to a store near you!

    We are never full: You are so right, these bagels are not for people living in New York :-) They are a fun experiment though — I want to try them again with a few different flavorings.

    Erin: Haha — no bowing necessary, but thank you!

    Giz: Thank you!

    Megan Renee: Let me know if you make them, would love to hear how they turn out.

    Pixie: I agree that homemade bagels are wonderful — if you find the perfect bagel recipe, I want to know. These are great but you never know, someone might find something better :-)

    Foodhoe: First off, every time I see your name it makes me laugh (in a good way) :-) Bummer about the black thumb, the book didn’t help to improve your skills?

  • kat April 1, 2008, 9:26 pm

    your bagels look beautiful & you can just say that the workout you got making then allows you to eat as many as you want!

  • eatme_delicious April 1, 2008, 11:52 pm

    Wow what beautiful bagels that look well worth all that kneading. I really want to try making my own but I’ll try to find a recipe that requires less kneading!

  • Jen April 3, 2008, 8:52 am

    Wow… I am very impressed. I’ve always wanted to try to make bagels since it’s nearly impossible to get decent ones where I live, but haven’t gotten around to it.

  • Arundathi May 9, 2008, 8:32 pm

    I’m seriously impressed! Those are some delicious looking bagels – I love love love bagels – and miss them so much after moving back to India! The Parm-black pepper sounded so good!!

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